• Firearm ownership is a divisive and emotional issue in South Africa, the police service says in a formal evaluation of the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill.
  • The proposed law seeks to eliminate firearm licences for self-defence, limiting guns only to hunters and sport shooters.
  • Licensed gun owners suffer because they are targeted for robbery, says the SAPS in a socio-economic impact assessment.
  • Civil society resistance to the proposed changes can be mitigated through education, the police says.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Ownership of firearms is an emotional issue in South Africa, says the police in a formal assessment of a plan to ban guns for self-defence, but limiting legal firearm ownership will ultimately benefit firearm owners too, and unite society.

It may just take some education.

The Civilian Secretariat for Police Service (CSP) on Friday opened for public comment a 2012 draft of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, which will overhaul South Africa's primary law that determines who may own guns, and how those guns may be used.

See also | No more guns for self-defence: Here’s how the law could change for hunters too

A summary of the Bill showed it would seek to ban self-defence as a valid reason to apply for a firearm licence.

The CSP has since published the Bill, and accompanying documents, including a socio-economic impact assessment, a standard review required for proposed legislation.

There is no alternative to gun control if South Africa is to lower its murder and general crime rates, the SA Police Service (SAPS) says in that assessment, even if the public will take some convincing.

"Firearm ownership and firearm proliferation are emotional issues," reads one part of the document. "Firearm ownership is a highly sensitive matter in the community," it says elsewhere, referring to "serious divisions in the community" caused by criminals and others who exploit loopholes in the Firearms Control Act.

Legal gun owners too suffer from a lack of gun control, says the police, because "[t]hey are targeted by criminals to rob them of their firearms."

See also | Self-defence will not be a valid reason to own a gun in SA under a newly-revived draft law

Amending the law will heal societal divisions and protect those who, as part of the overhaul, lose the ability to license weapons to defend themselves and their property, the assessment implies.

It warns that the main risk of the legislation "remains resistance of civil society to the idea of limitation of numbers of firearms", but holds this could be mitigated through "public education", and when an increase in arrests for illegal firearms is seen.

"The constant rise in incidences of violent crime is an indication of the dire need for improved firearm control," says the assessment.

On the other hand, "[c]urrent and new firearm owners benefit when a clear and unambiguous control system is in place."

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